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How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

People often wonder why Russians smile so little. It seems strange to many people who expect a smile for every little thing, especially when working in the service industries. Everyone smiles at you and it is taken as a sign of acceptance, politeness, and is expected or even demanded. We often judge the quality of the service on a smile! Perhaps we are all smiling too often?

Russians have different beliefs about smiling

The Russians have a different idea about smiling and in many ways, it is more sincere and direct. The bottom line is that you never smile unless there is a genuine reason to do so. Here are some tips to understand when and how Russians put this into practice. This should help if you are planning a visit to Russia so that you understand what is really going on. It should also give you a better idea of understanding Russian people when you meet them.

Smiles are not necessary at work

Russians take work seriously and they feel there is no need to smile at passport control because they are getting on with their job. They do not know you, so why should they smile? Russian school children are often reprimanded for smiling by their teachers as it is interpreted as idling. Russian kids often hear their teacher saying, “What are you smiling at? Write!”

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Smiles are not used when driving

A British journalist living in Siberia was puzzled that Russians never acknowledged with a smile or thank you, when motorists stopped to let them cross the street. A Russian acquaintance asked him, “Why should you thank someone for not killing you?”

Smiles are used sparingly

If you go around Russia smiling at everyone and everything, Russians will probably think that you are a fool! You must have a good reason to smile, otherwise you may appear as being rather naïve and idiotic.

“The laugh without reason – is the sign of stupidity.” – Russian proverb

Smiles are important

Russians are at first impressed when they visit Europe or the USA because everyone is smiling at them! After a while, the awful truth sinks in because they realize there is nothing at all behind those smiles. No genuine friendship or real sincerity. They think all those smiles are wasted.

Smiles are a precious commodity

A Russian smiles when there is a real reason to do so. It may reflect a particularly happy moment, great fortune, or good news. They really do have something to smile about and smiles are highly valued.

Smiles must be genuine

When Russians see you smiling at them they immediately become uneasy. It is seen as a rather suspicious because they do not know you or they do not have any reason to rejoice. It can even be a negative feature and they may even think you are laughing at them. That is why they do not smile back!

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Smiles are not a sign of happiness

Russians do not feel that smiles are a genuine measure of how sullen or gloomy a person may feel. It goes much deeper than that. Judging a person’s character on a smile is really rather superficial.

Smiles are reserved for personal affection and friendship

Russians will smile at their friends and use it to express genuine affection or friendship. When you smile at a Russian and you have never met them, they may be puzzled and start wondering where or if you have met before.

Smiles must always be in context

You may think that an encouraging smile is priceless when someone is ill or facing enormous difficulties. Russians view these smiles as inappropriate in that sort of context. They are just out of place.

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Russian smiles are usually genuine, sincere and reserved for moments of affection, friendship and celebrations. Their smiles are telling you something important.

Let’s face it. Smiling may be interpreted and understood in a myriad of ways depending on cultural differences. Look at the British who have the so-called “stiff upper lip” or the Japanese who tend to cover their mouths when smiling and laughing. Psychologists have identified sixteen different types of smiles- you can see the full list here. Far too complicated – give me a genuine Russian smile any day!

“You can only hold a smile for so long, after that it’s just teeth.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Featured photo credit: Veni/Flickr via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019

41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

Some things in life are hard to describe, yet we can recognize them when we see them.

Love is one of those things.

True love comes in many different forms, but here are some that many of us know well.

True love means supporting those who can’t support themselves

supportive couple

    A young man comforts his date in Times Square, New York City. Image by mbtrama

    strong hug

      A young man holds his significant other close to him. Image by Brad Fults

      running help

        A young track competitor helps one of her injured opponents over the finish line. Image from ViralNova.com

        feeding kitten

          A soldier in the Korean War takes time to feed a baby kitten. Image from US Naval Insititute

          It’s having the perfect selfie partner

          mom and daughter selfie

            A mother and her daughter take a selfie together. Image by Andrew Fysh

            girlfriends

              Two young girls pose for the camera. Image by Rolands Lakis

              selfies

                A happy couple takes a picture together. Image by Kayla Heineman

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                selfie

                  Two best friends take a selfie together. Image by Jason Wahido

                  dude selfie

                    Friends take a selfie together. Image by Glenn Scofield Williams

                    It’s all the warm fuzzies

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                      A young man spends time with his dog on a beach. Image by Magdalena Roeseler

                      DSC06952

                        A pet owner hugs his dog while on a day trip in San Francisco. Image by Taro the Shiba Inu

                        It means having a friend to photobomb you

                        photobomb

                          A boy makes a funny face as he poses for a picture with his brother. Image by Michael Bentley

                          old man photobomb

                            A man photobombs his wife while their grandson snaps a picture. Image by Frank

                            family photobomb

                              Family members photobomb their relatives’ Thanksgiving day family photo. Image by Beth Scupham

                              boyfriend photobomb

                                A friend photobombs the photographer and their friend, the woman in the foreground of this photo. Image by Lachlan Hardy

                                True love means being there even when life gets unbearably hard

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                                shoulder to cry on

                                  A family watches the Vermont National Guard depart for Afghanistan. Image by The U.S. Army

                                  flood dog

                                    During a monsoon in the Philippines, a boy carries his dog to safety. Image by Romeo Ranoco

                                    A woman is rescued from flood waters by a resident standing on top of her car during heavy rain in Chalandri suburb north of Athens

                                      A man helps a woman out of her vehicle during a flood in Chalandri, Greece. Image by John Kolesidis

                                      lunch

                                        A woman has lunch with her husband every day, even after he’s passed away. Image from ViralNova.com

                                        hug

                                          A woman hugs the mother of 6-year-old Noah Ponzer, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Image by Spencer Platt

                                          rubble

                                            An Oklahoma couple pauses while trying to salvage belongings from a family member’s home after a tornado. Image by Adrees Latif

                                            sister and brother

                                              A girl puts her arm around her little brother as they wait outside of Sandy Hook Elementary after gunshots are fired. Image by Reuters.

                                              headstone

                                                A woman sits at her husband’s grave the day before their wedding anniversary. Image from NBC news

                                                It means taking the time for long goodbyes

                                                110321-N-BT887-100

                                                  A man says goodbye to his son before deploying. Image by Official U.S. Navy Page

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                                                  national guard goodbye

                                                    A South Carolina man says goodbye to his son before deploying for Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                    saying goodbye

                                                      A Sergeant hugs both of his sons before being deployed to Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                      And cherishing reunions

                                                      husband home

                                                        A woman hugs her husband as she sees him for the first time since his deployment to Iraq. Image by The U.S. Army

                                                        boyfriend home

                                                          A young  woman hugs her significant other as he returns home for Kuwait. Image by The National Guard

                                                          mother hug

                                                            A mother drops to her knees as she hugs her son on her return home from the Persian Gulf. Image by The National Guard

                                                            True love is letting yourself feel young when they’re around

                                                            elderly women

                                                              Two friends on their smartphones. Image by Robert Neff

                                                              feeling young

                                                                A young couple getting their picture taken. Image by db Photograph

                                                                sprinkler dad

                                                                  A father plays in a sprinkler with his daughter at Millennium Park in Chicago. Image by Ben Forsberg

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                                                                  subway couple

                                                                    A young couple on a subway enjoys sharing time together, while the girlfriend’s father sneaks a photo of them. Image by Gareth Williams

                                                                    wheelchairs

                                                                      A couple holds hands on a fall day. Image by David Amsler

                                                                      It’s letting yourself be silly… just because they’ll enjoy it

                                                                      silly faces

                                                                        A grandfather makes faces at the camera with his granddaughters. Image by Tim Pierce

                                                                        vote for pedro

                                                                          A woman’s father wears a Napoleon Dynamite t-shirt to make his daughter laugh. Image by emdot

                                                                          True love is allowing yourself to show how you really feel

                                                                          date night

                                                                            A young couple kisses in the back of a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Image by Derek Key

                                                                            playing violin

                                                                              Violinist Nancy Dinovo plays at a memorial service for the victims of 9/11. Image by Christopher Morris

                                                                              True love is timeless

                                                                              old friends

                                                                                Friends spending some time together. Image by Cristian Bortes

                                                                                sitting around a fire

                                                                                  A group of friends sits around a campfire eating. Image by New Old Stock

                                                                                  elderly couple

                                                                                    An elderly couple walks down a street together. Image by Matteo Paciotti

                                                                                    Featured photo credit: Matteo Paciotti via flickr.com

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